Youtube SEO Checklist

Youtube SEO Checklist to Skyrocket Your Visibility

Youtube SEO Checklist

If your videos are not ranking at the top of search results, you’re likely missing a few key elements in your Youtube SEO strategy. 

We know the Youtube algorithm aims to match users with the most relevant content. So how can you work with the algorithm to get your videos pushed to the top of the search results? 

That’s exactly what we’ll cover in this detailed Youtube SEO checklist.  Let’s get started!

What is Youtube SEO Exactly? 

Much like traditional search engine optimization, Youtube SEO involves a set of practices aimed at helping your content appear high in the search results. By optimizing your title tag, video description, thumbnail and other key elements (more on that below), you can attract the right viewers to your channel. 

How Does Youtube SEO Work?

If you want to rank videos on Youtube, then there’s one thing you need to understand. Yes, you guessed it. It’s The Youtube algorithm (aka the system that determines what videos appear for each user). Simply put, Youtube analyzes multiple factors from user behavior to video data to determine what videos to present to users.

Getting your videos on the results page or on the sweet real estate that is the youtube homepage requires optimizing them. But what exactly do you optimize for?  Find out below!

Optimize for Youtube Ranking Factors 

So, what is important for YouTube SEO? Well, there are multiple factors at play in the complex Youtube algorithm. 

But at the heart of the Youtube algorithm is a simple goal: Youtube aims to present each user with the videos that align with their interests AND get them to keep watching. To do this, the video platform uses multiple data points. Some of these, like what a user has watched in the past, are out of your control. 

However, the seven elements listed below are ones you do have control over. Let’s dive into these important Youtube ranking factors together!  

Titles, Tags and Descriptions

Your video title, description and tags help Youtube determine what the video is about and who to serve it to. Remember, the algorithm is working to match users with videos that are most relevant to them so filling in these details is essential. This is especially important when you first publish a video since YouTube has no data on watch time, click through rate, like to dislike ratio and other metrics. We’ll dive into some juicy title, description and tag SEO tips in the next section. 

TLDR: Youtube uses title and descriptions to determine who to serve your videos to. Keep them interesting and accurate!


Think of the Youtube results page as a row of stores on a busy street. Each thumbnail is like the storefront window. Based on a quick glance, someone will determine whether to enter the store (click on your video) or walk into another store with a shinier, more enticing display (click on a competing video) . 

TLDR: Your thumbnail needs to stand out to get those clicks!

CTR (Click-Through Rate)

Speaking of clicks, let’s talk CTR. Out of all the people seeing your video in the search results, how many are clicking on it? This percentage is known as your click-through rate. Wondering how your CTR compares to other channels? Youtube shared that half of all channels and videos have an impressions CTR ranging between 2% and 10%

TLDR: The more people that click through to your video, the better. So make yours irresistibly clickable.

User Engagement

We’ve all heard our favorite Youtubers cheerfully reminding us to “like, comment and subscribe.” This is because user engagement is a key metric on any Youtube SEO checklist. The more comments, shares and likes your video gets, the higher your engagement rates will be. Plus, this data can help guide future video creation. 

TLDR: Don’t just tell people to share and comment. Make videos that people can’t help but engage with. 

Audience Retention

Once a user clicks on your video, what portion of it do they watch? This percentage is your audience retention rate. It’s no secret that videos with high audience retention rates tend to get prioritized in search results. In fact, Youtube admitted to “adjusting the ranking of videos in YouTube search to reward engaging videos that keep viewers watching”. 

From opening with an interesting hook to adding on-screen graphics, there are lots of ways to boost audience retention. The Youtube SEO checklist below will walk you through data-backed retention strategies.

TLDR: Hold audience interest from beginning to end to get on the Youtube algorithm’s good side. 

Watch Time

Watch time is the total amount of time users have spent watching your video since it went live. Videos with lots of accumulated watch time are more likely to be pushed high in search rankings. Holding viewers’ interest is a key component of increasing your watch time. 

TLDR: Gaining more collective eyes on a video can boost your content in rankings.

Session Time 

Remember that Youtube wants users to stay on the platform for as long as possible. Session time is the amount of time users stay on the platform in one visit. After watching your video, do they exit Youtube? Or do they stay on the platform and watch more videos?  Because Youtube generates revenue via ads, it prefers the latter. Using your current video to encourage viewers to watch others on your channel is a great way to boost session time and watch time for your channel. 

TLDR: After getting people to watch, keep them engaged! It’s a win for you and Youtube.

Youtube SEO Checklist: Before You Shoot Your Video

We’ve covered how Youtube SEO works and the key metrics in Youtube’s search and discovery algorithm. Now, here’s what to do for high ranking videos:

Perform Youtube Keyword Research 

Starting with keyword research is essential for any SEO strategy.  After all, there’s no point in optimizing a video that covers a topic no one is searching for. So how do you uncover an in demand topic in your niche?

  • Use Youtube’s auto suggest feature. To learn what people are actually searching for on youtube, go straight to the source. Once you know your main idea, Youtube can help you narrow it down. 

For example, “vegan recipes” is a broad and competitive keyword. But typing the keyword into Youtube’s search bar with the word “for” provides more specific topic ideas. 

youtube auto suggest feature

  • Try Google Trends. To use it, navigate to and type in a topic. Then, hit enter and set the search filter to Youtube search mode. Once here, you can see the relative popularity of the term over time and analyze interest by region. 

Google Trends will even reveal related topics and queries. Sticking with our vegan recipe idea, we can see that vegan casserole, smoothie and low calorie recipes are in demand. 

google trends

  • Leverage Youtube Keyword Research Tools. We’re big fans of keyword research here at Tuff. And we get by with a little help from our friends, like Tube buddy or Vid IQ. These YouTube SEO tools can help inform your video content strategy. Ahrefs also offers a Youtube search function in its Keyword Explorer tool. 

The tool filters in clickstream data to offer thousands of keyword ideas that you can filter by search volume, average clicks and phrase match. Say I notice that vegan cheese content is getting popular. I can input “vegan recipes” and filter results to include the word cheese. Ahrefs will then display related terms and their respective search volumes. 

keyword research tools

You’ve done the work of uncovering a target keyword. Now, weave it into the title, description and content of your video. Read on to learn how to do this with maximum impact!

Create a Captivating Video Intro

Your video intro is a critical part of your Youtube SEO strategy. Here’s why: It’s common for users to click out of a video within the first 30 seconds of watching (yes, we were shocked too). This leads to low audience retention scores and, you guessed it, lower visibility in search results. To enhance your intro:

  • Include your hook and value proposition early in the video 
  • Tease the best part of the video at  the start 
  • Experiment with different intro styles to learn what your audience prefers

In short, you need to convince your audience to continue watching your video once they click on it. 

Script Your Video Body  

Remember our keyword research from step one? This target keyword needs to be in your video. Yes, saying the keyword and related phrases is helpful for Youtube SEO. *Gasp* So Youtube SEO is about more than just placing the keyword in the title? Yup. That’s because Youtube uses speech-recognition technology to learn what your video is about and create closed captions for your viewers.

For a streamlined video that gives the viewer what they came for, write a script before you hit record. This allows you to add structure, remove unneeded information and ensure you deliver on the title.

End with an Optimized Video Outro 

Viewers tend to click away when they know the video is coming to an end. To avoid dips towards, carefully plan your outros. 

First, don’t abruptly end the video. Instead, have a bridge that naturally leads users into the next one. For example, at the end of a vegan cheesecake recipe video, urge viewers to watch your 10 best tools for vegan baking video. 

Next, leverage the end screen. This final card is a great place to promote other videos. Youtube allows you to customize your end screen  so take advantage of this area. A great end screen includes calls to action and links to relevant videos. This is important for increasing session times. 

Youtube SEO Checklist: Before Publishing The Video 

You’ve scripted, filmed and edited. Now it’s time to publish! Use the checklist below to optimize your Youtube video before it’s live.  

Create an Intriguing Video Title 

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of your video title. Youtube uses video titles as a ranking factor. Users decide whether to click on a video based on the title. Here’s how to optimize yours: 

  • Include the target keyword in the title, preferably at the start
  • Avoid confusing language or industry jargon that users may not know
  • Ensure the title aligns with the video content (no clickbait)
  • Look at titles of top performing videos and create similar ones
  • Add interest to your titles power words, numbers and related keywords

Let’s compare two titles for the term “cook a vegan cake”.

youtube video title

This title is straightforward and aligns with user intent. But it’s not very interesting.

youtube video titles

This title incorporates multiple related keywords that someone searching for a vegan cake may look up. A superlative like Best and a fun emoji make this title enticing to the user. 

Craft an Optimized Description 

The description box lets Youtube understand what the video is about so the algorithm can serve it to the correct users. It’s also a great place to encourage users to engage with you and your content. For a strong description: 

  • Create a summary on what the video is about, including your focus keyword
  • Link to any resources you mention in the video
  • Include partial matches and variations of the focus keyword 
  • Add timecodes  that covers the structure of the videos to improve video SEO

While the start of each description should be unique, you can end each description with a templatized blurb about your channel and links to your social media. 

Create a Captivating Thumbnail 

Remember our storefront analogy from earlier? Your thumbnail is the visual representation of your video that users can either click on (yay 🥳)  or scroll past (sigh) as they look at video options. A great thumbnail should:

  • Visually complement your title
  • Stand out from other top videos on the results page
  • Be image focused rather than word-focused 

Let’s compare two thumbnails for the term “vegan dessert recipe”. 

youtube seo title

This thumbnail does display the focal point of the video but it lacks any messaging around why a user should click. There are no overlays, fun fonts, or contrasting colors to add interest.

youtube seo title example

This thumbnail contains bolded words that emphasize what the user will get when they click into the video. In addition to the dessert, the human element of the men baking adds interest.

Add closed captions 

Closed captions might not spring to mind when you think of video optimization. But this feature can increase engagement among viewers, especially on mobile. Plus, having high-quality closed captions expands reach among non native speakers and those who are hard of hearing.

Youtube automatically generates captions for your videos. But these Auto Speech Recognition (ASR) captions are not always accurate. To produce the best captions, you can edit the captions or use a captioning tool. 

Post Publishing: Youtube SEO Tips 

Oh, you thought our SEO strategy was complete? Creating quality video content is essential. But there’s more you can do to give your videos a boost in Youtube search results. 

Promote Your Video

After your video goes live, it’s time for a little good old fashioned promotion. To encourage current subscribers to watch, create a community post on Youtube highlighting the new video. Repeat the process on your other social media platforms. Be sure to include an interesting angle to avoid coming off as too self-promotional. 

In this community post, Vegan focused Youtube channel Pick Up Limes promotes a new video and lets users know the value they will receive.

Use Youtube Analytics for Insights

Youtube Analytics is a treasure trove of data that you can leverage to accelerate your channel growth. In the tool, you can dive into your audience demographics to tailor your content to better serve them. You’ll also be able to analyze the key moments for audience retention to know when people are interested and when they click out of your videos.

As you can tell, there are a lot of moving parts at play when it comes to Youtube SEO. The Tuff team has the tools expertise you need to create and execute a holistic SEO strategy that engages the right users to grow your business.

designing ad creative

So….Is That Good? The Complete Guide to Benchmarking Ad Creative

designing ad creative

Does it follow the brand book? Does it speak to the right audience? Does it abide by general design principles? 👈 These are the questions that most designers or agencies ask themselves when they’re answering the question: “so…is that good?”

But, as a creative team nestled within a growth marketing agency, we demand much, much more out of every asset that leaves our desks. 

In addition to putting our assets through the typical creative wringer, we put each through a gauntlet stacked with data. That allows us to work in-step with growth marketers and channel experts to design creative that uplifts campaign performance and, ultimately, drives revenue. 

Primary Metrics and How We Use Them

Hop into Facebook Business Manager, TikTok Ads Manager, or any of the other back-end dashboards that power your campaigns and you’ll see a wealth of data to parse through. Here are the metrics we hone in on when it comes to benchmarking creative and what they tell us about each asset:

Click-Through Rate: When we see a high CTR on an asset, we can deduce that it was attention-grabbing and compelling enough to drive our audience to click. 

Cost Per Click: Similar to CTR, CPC is a metric that helps us understand how “grabby” our creative is. The lower the CPC, the stronger the creative. 

Conversion Rate: While we use the platforms’ owned dashboards to peek at CTR and CPC, when it comes to CVR, we’re all about Google Analytics. When we see a higher CVR on a piece of creative, we can deduce that not only was the creative compelling enough to earn us a click, but also the user was equipped with enough information (and excitement!) to complete a desired action once they hit the site. Obviously, the ad creative is only part of this equation (site experience and UX is the other big-hitter when it comes to this metric) but it’s still super helpful in understanding the performance of an asset. 

Cost Per Conversion: Similar to CVR this is a metric that helps us understand how actionable our creative is. The lower the cost per conversion, the stronger the creative. 

Secondary Metrics and How We Use Them

Just the same as how the DNA of each growth marketing strategy differs, so do the KPIs and useable metrics. So, while the above four metrics are typically the most important, sometimes we don’t have the luxury of leaning on them. Instead, we can use other helpful metrics to fill in the blanks. 

Time on Site: TOS is a great substitute for conversion rate and cost per conversion for organizations with higher customer acquisition costs. 

Leads: This one is simple – instead of peeking at conversion rates, sometimes lining up the total number of leads or conversions, take a look at the hard numbers. 

Here an example of how we’ve subbed in other metrics when CTR, CPC, CVR, and CPC can’t tell the whole story:

We work with an organization with a relatively high cost per conversion. That means, with their monthly budget, sometimes we’ll only have one or two conversions on even our best-performing assets. In this case, CVR and CPC are relatively useless metrics (because they’ll only give us information on a few of our assets). To solve for this, we’ve subbed in time on site (TOS) in place of CPC and CVR.

ad creative results

Industry Benchmarks by Platform

Okay, so you’ve compiled your data, you can see which assets are driving stronger performance. But still, is it good? Take a peek at the industry benchmarks by the the most-used platforms to see how your creative measures up. We’re only including click-through rate and cost per click in the chart below because conversion rate, cost per conversion, and time on site depend so heavily on factors outside of the ad platform (like the UX of your site, cost of your product/service, etc):

Facebook (including Instagram):

  • CTR: 0.9%
  • CPC: $0.97


  • CTR: 3% to 12% CTR
  • CPC: $1.20


  • CTR: 0.55%
  • CPC: $5.58

Note: these are averages across all industries. There can be significant discrepancy depending on industry, so make sure you dive a little deeper to get the full story!

Leveraging Data to Make Better Creative

Data for data’s sake is simply a waste. So, the most important part of the entire equation is gleaning insights that make a massive impact on what you make next. While leveraging data to untangle what’s working and what’s not is a bit of an exercise in educated interpretation, overtime, it can make a massive difference. Here’s a shortened version of our process here at Tuff:

  1. Gather the growth marketer, social ads expert, and creative lead ‘round to get a big-picture view of the best performing assets and the ones that were left behind. 
  2. Identify common threads among the top three/four at the top and bottom of the pack. Investigate things like:
    1. Which value props are featured?
    2. Are there color/type similarities?
    3. What type of creative are in these groups? Videos? GIFs?
    4. What kind of content is featured? Big, bold copy? Testimonials?
  3. Articulate your high-level insights about what worked, what didn’t work as well, and how you plan to create a fresh round of assets that honors what works and leaves behind what doesn’t.

Think you could use a hand gathering and synthesizing data to make creative that doesn’t just look nice, but drives real results? Let’s talk.

A Step-by-Step Guide for Running a Chatbot Test in 2019

It’s pretty dang hard to get around the internet these days without hearing about chatbots and ‘the future of AI’. It’s a hot topic and something we’re pretty excited about.

I’m pretty strict about what I subscribe to and here is my inbox filtering for AI (so not including emails using chatbot specifically).

We’ve been learning more about what customers need and expect from their online experience, and helping clients run a chatbot test to see how the channel converts. It can serve as a great user acquisition channel, depending on your target audience.

In this post, we’ll briefly cover what opportunities a chatbot can help you take advantage. But, the true intention is to give you a framework and template for running a chatbot test on your own to see if it works well for your customers as well as employees.

Tell me more about chatbots…

Chatbots are Artificial Intelligence (AI) programs that can process and respond to simple queries from your audience like an interactive FAQ. You’ve seen them across the internet, often in the bottom right corner of a web page. It looks similar to live chat but with programmed data on the other end.

Screenshot of's homepage with a chatbot in the bottom right corner.

When a company is utilizing a chatbot, they’ve taken the time to teach the chatbot the answers to questions they expect a customer to ask.

It works a bit like a flow chart:

Examples of companies running chatbots…

  • Duolingo uses chatbots inside their language teaching app and allows users to practice conversation by simulating text exchanges. [Learn more about the bot here]
  • Apartment Ocean is a chatbot built to help real estate agents qualify leads and learn more about potential customers. [Learn more about the bot here]
  • Pizza Hut allows people to order pizzas and reorder their favorites via a Facebook messenger chatbot. [Test out their bot here]
  • Casper, a mattress company, has a purely promotional bot that is active from 11pm to 5am to ‘keep you company when you just can’t fall asleep’. While it can chat on many topics from Stranger Things to Seinfeld, it also takes the opportunity to plug their mattresses from time to time. [Learn more about the bot here]

Why should I run a chatbot test?

Do you ask customers to fill out a form?
Chatbots have helped create a shift toward something being coined as ‘conversational marketing’. You can use chatbots to replace long forms with more intuitive and natural conversations. You can set up a bot to ask those same qualifying leads your forms are searching for. Depending on the potential customer’s answers, the chatbot will send them through the right flow.

Looking to help your sales agents save time and close more leads?
A chatbot can automatically qualify leads and get them to the right agents. As research from and the Harvard Business Review shows, even if you wait just five minutes to respond after a lead first reaches out, there’s a 10x decrease in your odds of actually getting in touch with that lead. After 10 minutes, there’s a 400% decrease in your odds of qualifying that lead. By automating this crucial step, your chatbot can quickly disqualify leads and get the most promising ones quickly to your agents.

Want to improve your customer experience?
There’s never going to be a future where Artificial Intelligence totally takes over because humans and chatbots are good at different things. Leaning on our strengths and the strengths of chatbots can make for a power team. When a chatbot pilot program was initiated in a telco company, it could handle 82% of common queries in customer service. After 5 weeks of tweaking, analyzing, and optimizing by human agents, its success increased to 88%, according to Accenture.

Let’s check out the data

In the 2018 State of Chatbots study from Drift and friends, they surveyed over 1,000 internet users in the United States and made sure to match their audience to represent the U.S. adult online population. Here’s what the group had to say about their current online experiences:

In addition to helping people get quicker answers, you can use the chatbot data to make changes to your website and try to eliminate the root cause of the most frequently asked questions.

Do you have customers spanning multiple generations?: One preconceived notion I had about chatbots is that they were better suited for companies with younger target audiences. I was excited to find data saying quite the opposite. In that same 2018 State of Chatbots Study, Drift found that Baby Boomers (age 55+) were 24% more likely than Millennials (age 18-34) to expect benefits from chatbots in five of the nine following categories:

I’m in. How do I run a chatbot test?…

We feel really great about the future of chatbots and their ability to improve customer experience and to deliver higher quality leads. That being said, before jumping in with both feet we suggest running a chatbot test to validate or invalidate whether it works well for customers and team.

We’ve organized a super simple experiment to help sales teams run a chatbot test and see if it could work for them:

  • Step 1: Develop a single hypothesis about what the chatbot will deliver
  • Step 2: Explicitly Identify the metric that will help you validate or invalidate your hypothesis
  • Step 3: Get benchmark data for that metric. You may be able to pull this from your current process or will need to build time into your experiment to capture it.
  • Step 4: Test chatbot
  • Step 5: Compare the two data sets to see if your hypothesis is valid or invalid.

Here is an example chatbot test:

  • Step 1 – Hypothesis: Implementing a chatbot will decrease the amount of time it takes to make first contact with a lead.
  • Step 2 – Metric: Hours from form filled to first contact.
  • Step 3 – Benchmark data: Depending on the size of your sales team, pull the data from at least 10% of your sales agents. If you are already measuring this metric, awesome! Just pull it and proceed to Step 4. If not, spend 10 days (without the agents’ knowledge) measuring this.
  • Step 4 – Test: There are a number of chatbot solutions out there. We recommend Intercom’s 14-day free trial because it’s a lean and easy way to get started and they have great analytics. Have the same agents you used for benchmark data spend 10 days using Intercom’s chatbot to qualify and make initial contact with leads.
  • Step 5 – Compare: In a spreadsheet, take the data from your two sets of 10 days and compare your metric, ‘hours from form filled to first contact’. Which one has a lower average? Does one have a better conversion rate?

Continued reading about Chatbots:

Ready to run a chatbot test?

If you’re interested in testing out a chatbot for your sales, customer success, or customer support team, we hope this experiment helps. We’re also always available to talk through ideas and implement an experiment tailored to your team and goals. Check out a

with Tuff.

We’d love to work with you.

Schedule a call with our team and we’ll analyze your marketing, product, metrics, and business. Then, present a Growth Plan with actionable strategies to find and keep more engaged customers.